Business Standard

Isro workhorse PSLV has an established track record

Isro attempt to place the country's eighth navigation satellite in orbit failed on Thursday

T E Narasimhan  |  Chennai 

Isro's PSLV, Isro, PSLV
Isro’s PSLV-C39 rocket at the assembly building during vehicle integration. (Photo: Isro)

As the Indian Space Research Organisation’s attempt to place the country’s eighth in orbit failed on Thursday, questions were raised whether this would have any impact on its commercial interests.

Isro’s workhorse rocket failed during its 41st flight, unsuccessful in hurling a backup into space on Thursday, setting back the country’s attempts to complete the constellation of homegrown GPS satellites for strategic needs. The IRNSS-1H, a backup satellite with a new atomic clock was to replace the first of the two failed Navic satellites that had faulty rubidium atomic clocks, essential in providing accurate positional data.

The Navic fleet, India’s answer to the US built global positioning system satellites or Europe’s Galileo, will help in providing accurate positions for vehicles on roads and ships on high seas.

The textbook launch of Isro’s PSLV, a journey of around 20 minutes into outer space, was marred after the heat shield or the uppermost container of the rocket, where the 1,455 kg satellite was housed, failed to open. The project cost is estimated at Rs 250 crore.

“The satellite is inside the heat shield and we have to go through a detailed analysis to see what happened,” said Chairman AS Kiran Kumar soon after the failed launch.  “Apart from the heat shield separation, the rest of the activities had gone on smoothly,” Kumar added.

Kumar said the had successfully carried out 39 consecutive launches and during Thursday’s launch it had performed well during all the stages.”Only the heat shield separation command and subsequent operations could not be completed,” he added.

“It is really perplexing that such a thing has happened. Normally the rocket has several redundancies built into it,” R V Perumal, a former scientist was quoted in IANS.

He said all the commands were pre-planned and built into the computers.”There cannot be any manual command,” he added.

The satellite was also the first one built jointly with a private consortium in its attempt to leverage India’s private sector to build spacecraft in the country. “It would be unfair to target the private sector for the failure,” Kumar said.

The was built by a consortium led by Alpha Design Technologies, a defence equipment supplier from Bengaluru, over eight months. A team of 70 scientists from supervised the operations. The consortium was to build two satellites and the second one is expected to be finished by April 2018.

So far, private firms have only built components and systems for Indian satellites and rockets. had planned to tap private players over a decade ago to build satellites, but the experiment failed as industry wanted a large-scale commitment before it began work. has already announced a tender to invite private firms to build bigger satellites.

First Published: Sat, September 02 2017. 23:15 IST
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